Because of the recent noise about Elon Musk acquiring Twitter, I was forced to think about how I want to spend my time.
I realized immediately that “spending time” is a metaphor. I don’t actually spend time, nor does it spend me. There is no currency involved. I am in time, and it carries me along. I can occupy myself by floating, diving, flailing, grabbing onto passing detritus, zig-zagging from bank to bank, but I’m still carried on at the same rate, eroding around the edges as I go.
Time isn’t a river either. (I recommend looking up Kay Ryan’s poem, “The Edges of Time” if you would like to digress even futher). It’s not a container, nor is it any of the other things people compare it to. So I’ll stop considering the expenditure of time and the philosophical and linguistic aspects of that metaphor out entirely. Great brains expend much time and thought (see what I did there) to much better effect.
The fact is, I get a few things out of reading Twitter, but mostly it doesn’t make me feel good. I like the satisfaction of having a nuanced view of the world and an early notification of what’s going on as it happens, and I enjoy a number of creative accounts, but mostly when I look at Twitter, I feel bad and I don’t get anything done. It’s an unsuccessful distraction.
I don’t get the choice whether or not to be distracted, however. I will always be distracted. My entire life is a racket of distraction. The choice seems to be what distractions I would like to choose. Yesterday, then, it seemed to me that the choice was not about Twitter (I’ve given up Facebook, and I only use Reddit to keep up with fencing and to fight with strangers in r/Philly when I’m in a bad mood), but about my phone. I have an Apple Watch that serves just fine for seeing who is texting or calling me, and it lets me check the weather and control my music, so honestly I don’t have to have my phone out of my pocket. And I even have a hearing aid with Bluetooth that I can use in a pinch to answer phone calls I have to take.
Focusing on technology is a digression too. Half of the books I read are on my phone, and a good thing too because it has allowed me to get rid of a lot of unnecessary hard copies. The point is, what makes me feel useful, productive, or happy? What seems, after the fact, to have been a good activity? Reading is one of them, of course, though generally not reading Twitter. Writing is another, though again, not writing on Twitter. Both reading and writing are enormous categories. Some reading, and some writing, just isn’t worth it.
What else is worth my time? Petting the cat. Talking to strangers on the bus. Playing new music and deciding what I like. Texting friends and family. Having enlightening conversations with the two-year-old grandchild. Opening the back door on warm days and hearing the sounds of the city.
What’s on your list?
Footnote: A reader wrote the nicest review of Dog of the Dead and I realized I needed to re-upload the manuscript again (I found the missing words she refers to when I was trying to format the paperback [my wonderful graphic designer is helping me figure out how to format the cover]). I did that while I was thinking about this blog post. All of that was absolutely worth doing but I notice an hour has passed.